How can it be possible that sitting is the new smoking? First of all, sitting and smoking are two completely different activities. While it has been long established that smoking is bad for your health, the effects of prolonged sitting can be just as detrimental but in a different way. In a study by the American Heart Association Advisory, they found that “prolonged sedentary time is bad for your heart and blood vessels even if you are physically active and exercise regularly.” There is more of a focus on sitting now than ever before, because with extended use of computers, longer commutes in vehicles and generally more sedentary lifestyles, the effects have been huge. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, “Men who sit six or more hours a day are 50% more likely to die from chronic disease, compared with those who sit three hours or fewer.”
Now that we know sitting is bad for you, what do we do about it?
1. Incorporate standing throughout your day: Who has ever taken a long car ride and felt how stiff you are as soon as you stood up? Adding five-minute breaks of standing every hour can reduce the stiffness that comes from prolonged sitting.
2. Stretch: Your hips and glutes get particularly tight with extended sitting. This tightness can affect your ability to do functional skills like squatting. Try stretching your hip flexors and glutes by doing these two stretches for 30 seconds on both sides and even during your five-minute standing break.
3. Modify how you do things: When I work with my computer at countertop height, I stand and only sit when I need to. This reduces the time that my hips and glute muscles are dormant and my body will stiffen up. The more ways we can find to accomplish our daily tasks but reduce the amount that we sit, the better.